Up, up and….. errrr, a bit more up…. 31/5/15

Vieste1_20150527After spending a couple of tranquil nights in Viestre, an interesting town which appears to have almost as many Germans as Italians in it, we moved along the coast to a little place called Peschici stopping at ‘Parco Degli Ulivi’ which is another ACSI site (12 euros a night Inc. Elec.) The place looked more like an olive plantation than a campsite as there were enormous Olive trees stretched out in all directions around us. The site was enormous, although thankfully as there were only 6 of us staying at the peak and the pitches weren’t marked out it wasn’t an issue ….. although I still don’t understand why one motorhome decided to try parking less than 2 meters away from our door – he obviously heard me cursing him as he soon moved though 🙂

Peschici2_20150528Peschici sits up on a cliff above the bay and has a small but very quaint walled old town and castle, unfortunately that is more than could be said for the rest of the town which apart from the main square needed a little bit of tender loving care. The main draw to being in Peschici however was to be closer to the Umbrian forest, so on Thursday we set off on the bikes into the forest to try and explore. We knew we would be pushing our luck to do the trip we had planned as it would have been a very hilly 80km round trip, unfortunately I was struggling as my back was aching after 25km of (all except 3km) uphill, so we threw in the towel and glided back down to the campsite again. It is a shame that there don’t appear to be any campsites closer in, I guess one of the benefits of having a car and being able to start your ride when you are already in the forest.

After a good nights sleep and a morning run to ensure that my back had recovered we decided to leave the Gargano behind us and get some miles in working our way back up to Perugia where we are meeting Richard (Gonzo) next Sunday. After ruling out an Aire in Lanciano as it was going to be market day and apparently the Aire would be inaccessible, Keith found a Fattore Amico small holding ‘Agriturismo Caniloro di Guiseppina di Nardo’ which was close to Lanciano and looked like an interesting stop. We wound our way away from the coast and into the beautiful rolling hills, and despite the entrance being on a bend with a fairly steep and narrow driveway, we made our way in, parked up and said hello to the goats, horses, sheep, chickens and dogs before having a nice chilled out afternoon.

We had hoped to buy some wine and possibly charcuterie, but despite trying, we ended up leaving it to the morning when we thankfully managed to find the owner who showed us around the farm and explained a bit more about what they do. With roughly 13 Hectares of land they primarily have olive trees and then grow feed for the animals, grow grapes for three different wines (enough to support the family and the restaurant for the year), maintain a good sized allotment and then they keep animals to produce meats and cheese…. Quality, not quantity!

Lanciano1_20150530As we only found this out just before we were due to leave we ended up having second breakfast (obviously to taste the produce) which consisted of two different cured meats, ricotta cheese, home made bread and a carafe of red wine …anyone would have thought we were hobbits, although the carafe of wine was a bit much for 10am, I only wanted a taster and Keith was driving 🙂

It was all delicious though and we both wondered what it would have been like if we had decided to eat dinner here…. Perhaps next time though we settled for 3 bottles of wine and 750g of a a local cured sausage…. A bit much but he ho…. On our way back down the drive we were presented with the most beautiful views to send us on our way…

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Back on the coast road we drove on to Giulianova where we have stopped at ‘Don Antonio Camping Village’ (16 euros with ACSI inc Elec) which is pretty much full to the brim. The 2nd June is another National holiday and it feels a little like most of Italy has decided to join us here ….. including one of the families we stayed next to in Marina di Latina a month ago who we bumped into this morning.

Although the campsite is huge and almost full, the setting is one of the best for a ‘beach’ location we have come across so far in Italy with 42km of cycle path along the seafront and apparently there is large air display here this afternoon.

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Puglia and its incredible Anti Pasti…. 25/5/15

We said our goodbyes to Michelle and Ulf who are in the process of having their new home built on the back of an ex-Austrian army vehicle and headed further south into an incredible electrical storm, almost to the tip of the heal to spend the night and dine at another Fattore Amico place ‘Agriculture MATINE di Anna Coppola’ near Alessano. Anna didn’t speak any english, but we managed to get by and found that her family had owned the small ‘chambre de hote’ on the land for 50+ years. It had definitely had a few updates during that period as it was authentically rustic, but also quite nice with a lovely pool out the back!

Dinner was typical Salerno food with a pretty impressive Anti-Pasti which just kept on coming followed by pasta with kale, meatballs with salad???? – a new one for me, but it was definitely lighter than the potatoes which were the alternative option – and thankfully only Strawberries and Ice Cream for dessert as I was struggling to cram them in. All washed down with some local wine and a digestif to follow…..tasty and worth the stop.

The following morning, we moved up the coast a bit further to Torre Del Orso (Camping Sentinella – 16 euros inc elec. with ACSI) where the beaches were white sand, the sea turquoise and there were lots of rock formations and caves along the coast. It is still very much pre-season although we were pleasantly surprised to see that the swimming pool was open and a good 25m long…. More than could be said for the town itself as it was also roughly 25m long (I exaggerate slightly) and pretty much everything (except 3 delis and a couple of bars) was still shut – the butchers actually had a note up outside to say that it would be opening on Saturday. So, no Bar B Q for us, but we did manage to buy some nice cheeses and meats from one of the deli’s.

We cycled into Otranto on Thursday which despite the road signs wavering between 16km and 11km at the beginning (it ended up being 17.5km each way), and not being able to judge how far 2kms actually is (definitely more like 5km)…. has a beautifully maintained historic walled town and is the most Easterly point of Italy – I think we heard more English and French voices in Otranto than we have heard since Florence …

We had hoped to cycle to Lecce on Friday, but as we were forecasted rain and the signposts said it was 22km …. Which if the trip to Otranto was anything to go by meant more like 30km, we decided to drive closer and stay the night to have a look around.

Unfortunately, when we arrived at the Aire in Lecce there was no sign of it being any more than a house and the gate was shut so faced without anywhere to stay, we decided to drive in a bit closer and have a walk around Lecce, but continue the journey to Alberobello later in the afternoon.

Lecce3_20150522Lecce is the capital of the province and also a University town and what we saw of it on our whistlestop tour was really nice although they are currently renovating everything (the wall, the castle, the theatre, the cathedral….) in the hope that they win the 2019 European City of Culture – so photos were a bit limited. It is the kind of place that we would have liked to explore a bit further as it looked like it had a lot to offer, just a shame that we couldn’t find anywhere to stay closeby.

We finally parked up for the night in Alberobello (‘Parcheggio nel verde’ 18 euros inc. elec.) and settled in to a quiet evening. Alberobello and the surrounding area is known for its ‘Tulli’ houses, which are slightly odd looking with cone shaped roofs made without any mortar.

Alberobello5_20150523Despite planning to stay a couple of nights, after a couple of hours walking round in the morning we decided that we would move on. As appears to be the way the last couple of days we lucked out – both places we had highlighted as potentials looked a bit grim, so after a quick review of options we decided that we would head to the next place we had planned to stay (albeit in a few days time) which was another Fattore Amico farm ‘Monte Sacro di Libera Bitondi’ near Mattinata. It was a long days driving for us, made even longer by a road being closed which meant we probably drove an extra 30km up the side of a mountain to get to the farm…. But it was worth it!!

Mattenata1_20150524Located 700m up and just over 10km outside Mattinata, Monte Sacro is in a national park and there were points when we were driving up the single track road when we thought someone was having a laugh as there were only hills, trees and cows to be seen. However we persevered and finally got to the farm and parked Mika in a field with three rather beautiful donkeys…. One of them being a baby.

Mattenata12_20150525We felt a little extravagant eating out twice in a week …. but are very glad we did – everything (except the wine) was home grown/reared and the men of the house were in charge of the kitchen providing good portions of a fantastic selection of food.

The Anti-pasti included marinated aubergines, aubergine stuffed with sun dried tomato, bruschetta, deep fried artichoke stuffed with mozerella, ricotta, mozerella and surprisingly (when you hear what is in it) the most flavoursome dish was a dish layered with sardines, cheese, baked corgette and breadcrumbs…. It really shouldn’t have worked, but definitely did!

The Anti-Pasti was a meal in itself, but it was followed by the most delicious spaghetti in a tomato and Parmesan sauce, a mixed (succulent lamb and beef with sausages) grill cooked on a bar b q with potatoes and then finally when I was going to pop they turned up with a small jam jar. I almost gave it to Keith without opening it I was so full, but thankfully after a little breather (and seeing Keith’s eye’s light up when he took the first mouthful of his) I dipped my spoon into the most incredible Tiramasu I have ever tasted. We both agreed that we haven’t ever tasted anything like it, perhaps it was because it was made with home made ricotta, perhaps it was the balance of coffee, liquor and cheese – who knows, but we would happily get fat on that 🙂

As the place was so tranquil we asked if we could stay a second night (normally you only stay one night with Fattore Amico as they have another business that they are running) and they were happy for us to do so. So, in the morning we decided to walk down through the national park into Mattinata to take in the views, we were grateful that we managed to miss the majority of the electric storms that passed through the area during the day especially on the rather steep 700m trek back up.

This morning we said good bye to the donkeys (and the owners, naturally), although I did try and convince Keith that we could get the little one in the garage :), and headed back down the mountain taking the slightly quicker route this time and wiggled our way along the coastal road to Viestra (‘Camping Bahia Degli Aranci’ 16 euros inc Elec. with ACSI) where we have now stopped for a couple of nights. The area is mostly national park and very rugged and beautiful, complimented with lots of caves along the coastline so we hope to get some good walking and cycling in over the next few days.

Building International Relations…. 18/5/15

We moved to the coast just on the other side of Taranto as our Italian map showed the coastline as being scenic and we thought that if the weather held, it would be nice to cycle along the coast for a bit.

We pulled up at Sun Bay Campsite (12 euros per night, but everything was extra… inc. emptying/refilling water) where everything was looking rather closed and pre-season, but they opened the gates and happily took our money directing me into the woods where the trees overhung perilously in every direction. I finally managed to convince them that Mika wasn’t going to fit into any of the spaces they suggested and asked if we could park in a slightly more open area …. which pretty much meant the beach. Keeping our fingers crossed that it didn’t rain (it was sand underfoot), we found a reasonably flat spot and opened everything up to breathe.

After a night interrupted by a game of ‘kill the mosquitos’, we managed to push through our morning exercise routine and devour some lovely pancakes before finally setting out along the coast on the bikes. Perhaps we are spoilt with the landscape we have seen, but it was pretty uninspiring unfortunately so after just over 25km of cycling into the wind, we stopped for lunch on some rocks looking out to a rather bland coastline and following lunch, promptly turned round and headed back.

Having had the campsite pretty much to ourselves on Friday night we found that we had now been joined by 5 other Italian motorhomes – who oddly had chosen to park near us on the sand rather than in the dense wood – and 30+ scouts in tents…. Despite our initial thoughts, they didn’t actually end up being too bad, I guess it is all relative though when you have an open air nightclub that appeared to be the center of all entertainment for the area rocking the campsite (literally) until 3am….. its ok though as we would have still been killing mosquitos (I have become a little bit neurotic about them)  if we weren’t listening to the music 😦

Slightly weary after two nights with little sleep, we continued our travels round Puglia to Gallipoli. We arrived at the campsite ‘Baia di Gallipoli’ (16 euros inc elec with ACSI) just after lunch and parked up next to a French cousin to try and help build on international relations ….

Gallipoli1_20150518The first motorhome we have seen towing a Goldwing motorbike … apparently comfort is important 🙂

After a good nights sleep (there were still mosquitos, but somehow we managed to keep more of them out of the motorhome) we headed into Gallipoli on the bikes. The town is split in two, the newer part on the mainland and the older part on an Island connected by a bridge. A nice town which thrived on the wine and oil industry and still has many of the original underground oil presses in the old town. Although there is still a lot of wine and oil in the area, I get the impression that it is the turquoise waters and sandy beaches that generate the areas’ wealth nowadays.

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Getting to grips with the Italian Sole….. 14/5/15

Having heard so much about the beauty of the Amalfi coast we wanted to at least drive round it however, I had a funny feeling that I had read something about not being able to drive motorhomes along the coastal road and luckily I checked as there is a 350 euro fine for driving between Positani and Vietri Sul Mare, which the campsite owners assured us that they are pretty hot on, even more so now the sun has come out and there is a huge amount of traffic on the roads. So, begrudgingly we left the Amalfi coast behind and headed inland to Cava de Tirreni for an over night stop, starting the journey across Italy (along the sole if you were wondering) towards the heal (Puglia).

The journey was horrendous, apart from it being a Sunday, it was also Mothers day and in true Italian style the traffic stacked up in every town and village where someone was selling roses by the side of the road or the fishmongers/butchers/bakery was open, the Italians don’t bother pulling over they just stop, dumping their car and leaving the traffic to try and find a way to get past….oddly when there is barely enough space for a car to pass, you can imagine the difficulty in getting a motorhome through,  the Italians were very helpful though encouraging us on by the horns of the cars behind us  …. or at least I think it was supposed to be encouragement 🙂  However, no matter how narrow the road, or the space to get passed a parked car, apparently it is always possible to squeeze a motorbike through. I think they must make motorbikes with a protective force-field around them as they seem to survive far longer than one would expect when you see how they drive.  As the weather has been getting warmer we have seen an increasing number of motorcyclists without helmets including an amusing conversation between a motorcyclist and a policeman – eventually the policeman won and the motorcyclist begrudgingly put his helmet on … at least until he was out of view of the policeman 🙂

Anyway, we finally made it to Cava de Tirreni and after being directed down several streets that were far to narrow for Mika, we found a way we could actually drive to the Aire (Free), parked up and stretched our legs. In the morning, after a quick visit to the local fruit and veg shop and butchers we squeezed our way back through the towns narrow streets and travelled to Fattore Punzi which is just outside Picerno near Potenza. We haven’t been particularly lucky with our Fattore Amico choices in the last couple of weeks unfortunately, this farm was supposed to be a restaurant and also sell local cheese, wine and honey, however the restaurant was shut for refurbishment when we arrived and there was no sign of any other produce being sold. The setting was stunning however, right on top of a hill at just over 1000 meters looking down into the valleys around it – it was a tad windy, but a nice tranquil night and no-one came to check on us.

Matera15_20150513With the wind behind us we rolled back down the hill and across to Matera where we stopped in an Aire in Parco della Murgia (10 euros a night)…. What a lovely place. Matera and the national park is a UNESCO world heritage site housing a Neolithic Village dating back 7000 years along with numerous rock churches. The national park sits on one side of the ravine and Matera on the other, providing excellent views of the Neolithic Village from a far, but walking around Matera itself is also quite an interesting experience as they have managed to maintain a good balance between Neolithic, old and new enabling tourism to mix with the day to day life of a real town.

Matera16_20150513As the weather has been warm we decided to take advantage of the tranquil location and do some walking, one day across the ravine and up to Matera, another just to look at the views across the valley, and today trying to follow another path to see some of the rock churches but after the first couple we lost the signage and ended up doing a round trip across into Matera and back again … all rather pleasant though.

Things are hotting up, we must be closing in on Vesuvius – 10/5/15

The journey to Pompei was going to be roughly 250km and knowing what the Italian roads are like we decided that rather than rush it, we would stop two thirds of the way, just before Naples at another Fattore Amico farm. There weren’t many to choose from, but we found what looked like a nice farm in the book which sold wine and honey whilst also having a restaurant and offering horse riding. The weather has been rising steadily and when we arrived mid-afternoon on Monday it was in the high twenties. Keith went to speak to the owners and ask if it was ok for us to stay but was told to come back in half an hour or so as the owners weren’t around and no-one spoke English/Spanish/French. After a cup of tea, a bit of muesli making and whilst the rolls were rising we headed back, but still no sign of the owners. Just after 5pm a man drove up next to us, honked his horn and shouted to see if anyone was around (he obviously didn’t want to get out of his van.. who knows what disease the English carry….) and told us we couldn’t stay here as it was his land. Now, with the language barrier between us, I initially assumed he must have been the owner of the farm, bringing out the Fattore Amico book to explain, but he wasn’t having any of it and just wanted to know if we were paying to stay and when I told him we weren’t, we just planned to buy some wine and honey he shrugged his shoulders and appeared to begrudgingly say we could stay the night although it was obvious he wasn’t happy. So, after finishing the muesli and the rolls we were surprised when another car pulled up with a mother and daughter (who evidently were the owners of the farm) explaining that we couldn’t stay as the farm was closed for maintenance and that we should have called ahead. I apologised and said that we would move on which appeared to spark a random change of heart as she then said we could stay but they were going to put a locked chain across the drive which wouldn’t be opened until about 8:30 am the next morning. We are still none the wiser as to who the old man was who told us that it was his land and we didn’t see anyone else from the farm but we had a peaceful night in the middle of the field without any further problems!

We set off to Pompei leaving our field behind us on what should have been an hour/hour and a halves journey, but ended up being one of the Italian driving experiences….. It appears that someone has decided that to cut costs they should turn off all traffic lights as both yesterday and today none were working which made the Italian drivers even more impatient than normal. This wasn’t helped by the fact that as we were working our way round Vesuvius trying to avoid Naples our SatNav sent us through a couple of town centers where we really shouldn’t have been driving as the roads were barely wide enough for two small cars to pass, then as we got closer to Pompei we found that Tuesday was market day, closing the road we wanted to go down sending us down a narrow detour, made even narrower by the randomly abandoned cars owned by Italians who didn’t want to walk more than 10m to get bread, meat, fruit etc.  When we finally made it to the campsite we were pleasantly surprised by the tranquility within in comparison to what we had driven through.

Zeus camping (16 euros inc. with ACSI) is 100m from the entrance to the Pompei ruins and above the hustle of the city which was a relief. All the pitches on the campsite are nestled between trees, great for shade, awful for satellite dishes and really bad if you aren’t a good driver as it sounds like there have been many a motorhome/caravan do quite serious damage. We however managed to find a lovely pitch which seemed to be twice the width of the others and despite not being able to get any satellite signal we were pretty happy with ample space for the table and chairs, bar b q and awning …. Luxury 🙂

Pompeii15_20150505After eating lunch we decided to head into Pompeii to have a look at the hidden city, which is incredible – I have copied down some of the words used to describe the events that left Pompei a hidden city from one of the signs within the city itself as there is no way I would be able to describe it better in my own words…

On the morning of 24th August 79 AD, a sudden tremor abruptly interrupted the daily routine of the inhabitants of Pompei. This was followed shortly afterwards by a tremendous blast signaling the beginning of a violent eruption with a column of lapilli rising over 20,000 meters into the sky. Carried by the wind, this cloud of lapilli hailed down upon Pompei, submerging the city in just a few hours in some three meters of material. The roofs of many houses caved in under the weight, often crushing and killing those who had taken refuge within. But the worst was yet to come. At dawn the following day, the first pyroclastic flow, composing of hot gas and fine ash hit Pompei and sealed the fate of every person and animal it encountered. The burning ash clogged the lungs and caused death by suffocation. Shortly thereafter, when already there was no living thing in the city, a second flow, much more powerful than the first fell with fury upon the walls of the town toppling or sweeping away their upper portions. It is calculated that the pyroclastic flow was probably travelling at speeds between 65 and 80 kms/h as it engulfed and carried off objects, roofing tiles and bodies. Other surges hit Pompei in waves after the city had already been destroyed and in the end Pompei was left buried under 5-6 meters of ash and lapilli.

What the above text didn’t explain is that only 17 years before Vesuvius erupted, Pompei suffered an earthquake destroying a large part of the city and it had taken 17 years to re-construct the city to the point where it was almost finished when the city was buried.

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It is truly incredible to think that the 66 Hectares of Pompei lay undiscovered until 1748 when exploration first started. Today 45 hectares have been excavated and the preservation of mosaics, sculptures, houses, paintings is incredible – especially considering it is on such a large scale.

Although we had planned to move on in the morning my run took me through Pompei new town and out to Scarfeli which looked interesting so we decided to stay on another night and explore a bit further.

Thursday however took us all of 16km (well, it should have been 16km, but I missed the turning and couldn’t turn around for another 5km, so ended up being slightly further…) along the peninsula towards Sorrento. Once I had finally managed to turn around (which on the Italian coastal roads is pretty difficult), we found our little road that took us down to Marina di Aequa which is a tiny fishing village looked down upon by Vico Equense.  As we turned off of the main road expectations were low as I was half expecting to have to reverse all the 2kms back out, but amazingly it all worked out ok and the campsite (San Antonio -18 euros (+1 euro tax ppn) a night Inc. Elec. with ACSI) is right in the middle of the village with really helpful, friendly owners. Although it isn’t the cheapest campsite (and you have to pay extra for hot water), the location is perfect as it is 50m from the village which has a couple of restaurants, two public beaches (almost unheard of in Italy), about 1km from Vico Equense which is big enough to have everything you need and a bit more and 1.5km from the train station which goes into Sorrento (and Naples if you are interested)… nice and tranquil.

We caught the train into Sorrento on Friday and were glad that the journey was only 10 minutes as they certainly weren’t using their best trains for this route…..it was definitely a little rough round the edges and there was no doubt that it was pick pocket haven at peak times – the journey was fine though and we even had a three piece band playing on the outward journey 🙂

There is no doubt about it, Sorrento is pretty, although as my parents warned us it is very touristy now and expensive with it. The lanes are interesting but unfortunately are full of touristy ‘tat’ with the addition of all things ‘Lemon-y’ (including a huge amount of lemoncello) which kind of spoils the character of the town a little.

On Saturday morning we climbed up to Vico Equense which sits above the marina and although it is far smaller than Sorrento it has more charm, lots of interesting cafes and deli’s and less ‘tat’ – probably what Sorrento used to be like going back twenty years or so and the views aren’t too bad either ….

VicoEquense1_20150509The area is famous for its meter long pizza, so we felt obliged to search out somewhere to try it heading up into Vico Equense in the evening. After checking out the options, including one enormous pizzeria which obviously catered to the tourists we ended up in a Deli type place with a wood burning oven in the corner half full of locals sharing tables. We found a corner to sit in and as the meter long pizza is really for 5+ people I opted for a calzone, Keith decided to go for a 50cm chef’s special and we ordered a bottle of ‘local’ red to help wash it down. As we waited for our food to arrive we watched the place get busier and busier with a mixture of young and old all sharing pizzas – there was a real buzz to the place. Our pizzas arrived and we weren’t disappointed…..

VicoEquensePizza_20150509Keith’s ‘Chef special’ turned out to have one half with Broccoli and Anchovies, the other Tomato and mushroom – interesting that there wasn’t any meat considering everything contains meat here, but we certainly couldn’t complain about the quantity of cheese as both the pizza and my calzone were oozing the stuff from every angle.

With a walk down hill on the way home we felt that it would only be fair to stop at the deli/ice-cream shop that we bought some local cheese in earlier in the day and bought some ice-cream to round off the meal, rolling home on very contented stomachs!

25 degrees and rising…. 4/5/15

FoceVerde1_20150430After four and a bit weeks of travelling inland through the beautiful rolling hills of Tuscany and Umbria we decided to head to the coast to a little town called Ladispoli – what a disappointment, don’t do it – it isn’t worth the trip. I am guessing it is a popular place for Rome weekenders, but it was run down and dirty and although black sand can look beautiful, in this case it just made the town look even more dilapidated and depressed. It was an odd place, when we arrived on Sunday lunchtime there were hundreds of motorhomes stacked into campsite after Aire, after campsite … but by about 8pm they had pretty much all disappeared leaving three of us on our site, none on the one next door and a handful on the one after…. what brought them here we cannot say as there was very little in the town itself, but we stayed the night (Aire Sosta ‘Lady Beach’ 10 euros) and continued on our way in the morning deciding to head back inland to a volcanic lake just south of Rome.

We arrived at Albano Laziale mid afternoon having had a surprisingly good journey round Rome and parked up near the sports stadium with a couple of other Italian Motorhomes and an enormous multi-coloured plastic recyclng machine – I appreciate that it is slightly odd to comment on a recycling machine, but I swear it must have been placed there by one of the candid TV programs that like to catch people out as it made some very strange noises at opportune moments. However, despite the recycling machine and the high volume of cars coming and going (it was also next to a school) it was actually pretty quiet, had all the necessary services (assuming a bus wasn’t parked over them when you needed them) and was free. Albano Laziale is a commuter town for Rome but also has its own sites of interest, with two volcanic lakes close by and a number of Archeological sites – not to mention a number of nice looking cake shops and interesting butchers.

We managed to have a walk round the town on Monday afternoon before the rain set in getting back to the motorhome without being soaked through, however once it started it didn’t stop raining heavily until Wednesday morning…. I guess it is the price we pay for having had such good weather over the last couple of weeks! Watching the rain pound down, we settled in for the evening, breaking out ‘Settlers’ (a strategy game in case you haven’t heard of it before) after dinner and took advantage of the slightly cooler, greyer weather to use the last of our Birds Eye Custard powder mixed in with a few prunes…. back to basics 🙂

On Tuesday afternoon having spent the morning in the motorhome, we made a run for it, trying to take advantage of what we thought was a gap between showers to walk to one of the volcanic lakes and Castel Gandolfo, thankfully we took our waterproofs with us as the skies soon opened up again – what we could see of Castel Gandolfo and the lake was beautiful, they were just buried in the clouds.

With the sun shining again we decided to continue the journey south, stopping at a place from the Fattore Amico book, ‘Valle Maggio’ on the edge of Anzio. Valle Maggio is a farm producing fruit, vegetables, buffalo mozzerella, honey and hard cheeses as well as having a restaurant at the weekends – we bought some of the fruit (including some fresh strawberries), veg and a really nice, slightly spicy hard cheese with peppers. The strawberries went down really well after the enormous hamburgers I made (they had to be big to fit in the huge rolls that we have been making recently as they rise more with the warm weather). We had forgotten how good a home made burger can be – it has been a while! The family who owned Valle Maggio were very friendly and welcoming despite us turning up whilst they were eating lunch, even offering us coffee before we left despite the restaurant being closed.

Our even slower than normal meandering over the last week has been due to the two national holidays that Italy has had (25th April and 1st May) as we didn’t want to get down to Pompeii and Sorrento when the world and his dog were there. So, wanting to get through this weekend before we hit Pompeii, we headed to the coast again to settle for four nights at an Aire in a small place called Foce Verde (Area Camper Altea Marea – 15 euros a night Inc. Elec.). We arrived on Thursday lunchtime and there were three other motorhomes on the site but by mid-night there were roughly 70 and there was a constant slow trickle that continued to arrive during the day on Friday – you can tell that we are still quite amazed by the Italian migration routine!

On Friday morning we woke to a buzz which was constant (except the tranquility between 11:30pm and 9am) until Sunday late afternoon, each motorhome must have had five (I exaggerate a little) children in it, the atmosphere on the Aire has been incredible with children of all ages running and cycling around without any restriction, not molesting anyone whilst the adults ate, drank, chatted and played the odd game of football or volleyball – I guess it is modern day camping with all the conveniences helped by the good weather. Like last week at 6:30 on Sunday afternoon all I could hear was birdsong ….. they had pretty much all left in the same style they arrived, just leaving us and a couple of French motorhomes who arrived yesterday to take in the last of the days’ sunshine – I am sure that the kids will be going home knackered and the parents rested.

In contrast to the Italians who didn’t move off of the campsite over the weekend, we had quite an energetic few days – on Friday we set off on the bikes into the Circeo National Park doing a 70km round trip to San Felice Circeo, Saturday we walked through a wetland within the national park and today we had a 44km round trip to Nettuno on the bikes again. The national park is pretty as you get a good combination of sea, wetland and mountains – but unfortunately the rest of the area is really not that attractive.

We have been in Italy for 6 weeks now and have experienced dramatic changes in the scenery ranging from some of the most beautiful countryside we have seen on this trip, to some of the ugliest and dirtiest. As we have headed further south and specifically got closer to Rome, we have noticed that there are an increasing number of derelict houses, abandoned factories and bags and bags of household rubbish scattered at the sides of the road – it is a real shame, we can only hope that it is localised to Rome and will get better when we get south of Naples.

As it is the beginning of the month I thought I would update the distances …..

Walking/Cycling:               4104.5km

Driving:                                 8100 miles